Those of us who maintain an interest in the HS2 project know that, although the chorus of disapproval from those opposed to its construction has declined to occasional solo outings, that is far from the end of the exercise. This has been confirmed by the Spectator’s Isabel Hardman, in a post titled “People’s front against HS2 to unite”. She certainly got the characterisation right.
May look like this. Perhaps
The opposition to HS2 has indeed been haphazard. But I have bad news for those who believe that bringing opponents together under the leadership of Tory MP Andrew Bridgen will make a more convincing case. That is down to the sheer vacuity of many arguments against HS2 – and a refusal by opponents to look at the reasons it has been proposed. Here are just a few of the many examples.
They can just lengthen existing trains: both the main operators out of London’s Euston terminus are already running maximum length trains. Any longer and some eye-wateringly expensive engineering would be needed to support them.
Euston Underground station could not cope: when capacity upgrades to the Victoria and Northern Lines, plus opening the east end of Euston Square station and making it part of the same complex, are completed, there will be more capacity.
But we’ll need Crossrail 2, so it has to be charged to HS2: this supremely dishonest punt has been tried by both the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), and the IEA. The only difference is that the IEA doubled the cost to £20 billion to make HS2 look worse. But the currently protected Crossrail 2 route does not serve Euston. The reason for including it is that it would make the Crossrail 2 business case better. So Crossrail 2 needs HS2, not the other way round.
This problem needs addressing too
Why not spend the money building houses and hospitals? The rationale for HS2 is not just about speed, or passenger trains, but network capacity as a whole. The Rail Freight Group (RFG) estimate of excess of freight demand over capacity without HS2 may prove instructive. You don’t solve that by doing something else.
We should just reopen the Great Central Main Line: a railway built for 75mph trains that was closed 48 years ago, doesn’t serve the North West, and has been built over in many locations, does not address the problem – quite apart from its southern end linking to the Chiltern Line, which is already at capacity at busy times.
High speed rail has failed in the Netherlands and Spain: no it hasn’t. No high speed line has closed, or is “in trouble”.
We can’t afford it: OK, do nothing and watch the road and rail network gradually clog up. We can’t afford not to do it, unless someone has a credible alternative.
And note use of the word “credible”. Bridgen will make no difference without that.